Let me be clear here: Once I had copies of these books, I knew I was never going back to regular D&D.
The 5th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons hit bookshelves in 2014 and became one of the best iterations of the classic formula. But it is 2022, and with the main rules being available via an open license from publisher Wizards of the Coast, it was only a matter of time before someone would expand and update them. With EN Publishing and an incredibly diverse and talented team answering said call, Level Up: Advanced 5th Edition is a new standard for fantasy roleplaying.
This isn’t just one book, but actually three books in standard D&D fashion, with the Adventurer’s Guide, Monstrous Menagerie, and the must-not-be-slept-on Trials & Treasures.
Advanced 5th Edition overclocks the original rules from D&D to make way for more narrative depth and tactical play. The best way to experience all of the updates and changes is to just jump into these books, but here are some of the highlights:
“Race” is thrown out as a mechanic in favor of a fusion of Heritage, Culture, and Background. You also get to pick a Destiny. This is a rich assemblage of qualities with which to build characters. You’ll have more unique, nuanced options, with a bold, heroic direction to follow, and it’s so much more dynamic than anything you’d get out of the original rules. On top of that, several classes have been tweaked, with the Warlock probably having benefited the most.
If you’re just a player, then the Adventurer’s Guide is your starting place. It also doubles as the game’s core rules. Game Masters, referred to as “Narrators” here, can jump into the rich Monstrous Menagerie for monster stats, but this book is no mere list of monsters. Each monster gets a “Legends and Lore” section so you can confidently answer the question, “I got an 18 on my History Check, what do I know about the Kobolds in this area?” This is in addition to essential advice for planning balanced and interesting encounters, with information like what kinds of signs a particular beast would leave behind, or how they might behave when encountering the party, adding nice narrative flair to what would otherwise be a collection of stats.
I haven’t even mentioned Trials & Treasures yet, which is—to a degree—A5E’s Dungeon Master’s Guide. You’ll have enough information to run a game out of the Adventurer’s Guide, but T&T will give you No Man’s Sky levels of resources to flesh out worlds: exploration frameworks, journey activities, weather events, wandering monsters, and rules for specific regions and biomes.
I can’t praise Advanced 5th Edition enough. It has replaced not one, but two games for me, giving me good reason to also retire my very weathered 1st Edition Pathfinder Core Rulebook. And did I mention that since it’s built on top of Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, you can just use all the material you already have in existing 5e games with some minor tweaks here and there.
This is the definitive version of Dungeons & Dragons. Accept no substitutes.